Dr Edgar Kooijman

Biotechnology Director Builds Relationships with South American Academic Institutions During Recent Travels

Dr. Edgar Kooijman is the director of the biotechnology program and associate professor in the department of biological sciences at Kent State University. He stepped in as director of the biotechnology program just last year and it had about 60 students. His main goal is to increase that number by at least 20 or 30 people.  One way he’d like to do that is through traveling to partner universities to encourage students to come to Kent State.

Dr. Kooijman (back row, center) poses with students from PUCPR following his lecture

In September, Dr. Kooijman received an invitation to visit Brazil from a student he taught the previous year who attends Pontifical University Catholic of Parana (PUCPR), a Kent State University partner school in Curitiba, Brazil. While there, his focus was “to talk to faculty and see what kind of coursework they offer and if we could come up with a program where our biotechnology students could go to do work at PUCPR in the more applied aspects of biotechnology,” Kooijman explained. He visited the PUCPR farm, accompanied by the Dean of the School of Agricultural Sciences, which houses one of the only veterinary schools in country. He was also able to tour the research labs and meet with the coordinator of the undergraduate biotechnology program and the coordinator of international programs of the School of Health Sciences.  He gave two lectures to undergraduate biotechnology students and graduate health sciences students, in which he talked about his research with lipids and promoted Kent State University.

From the visit, two potential collaboration agreements were discussed between Dr. Kooijman and the faculty at PUCPR. The first is an internship program for Kent State University biotechnology students in which students will study at PUCPR labs or at a local industry.  The second is an articulation agreement between the two so students could do half of their degree in Kent and half at PUCPR.

In addition to Dr. Kooijman’s visit to PUCPR, he also visited Carlos Chaga Institute, a research center that’s linked to Kent State’s new partner university, Fiocruz. While there, they established a possibility of future research collaboration. He was able to learn more about trypanosomes and some of the tropical diseases that affect Brazilians, which is a major interest of his. Prior to his Curitiba visit, Kooijman traveled to Iguazu National Park in Argentina to attend a conference about the biophysics of lipids with the intentions of establishing a relationship with other scientists.

Dr. Kooijman is originally from the Netherlands and stressed the importance of studying abroad for students. “When you go abroad, it builds a whole different type of skillset you can’t get here in the US. It really builds personality, character and drive, which is one reason researchers are expected to do that.” Kooijman said. “If you can be successful in a different culture, that is so powerful.  It’s a totally unique experience and you learn so much about the world.” Different countries have different ways of teaching its students and getting a diverse education can be extremely beneficial to students.